The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence released an exhaustive and explosive report today on the CIA’s interrogation practices, saying the agency repeatedly misled Americans and deeply mismanaged the program that was secretly put into place after the 9/11 terror attacks.
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The controversial, five-year study by the committee, which was conducted after reviewing more than 6 million pages of internal CIA records, found that the interrogation techniques used on more than 100 detainees “were not effective” and the management of the program “was inadequate and deeply flawed.”
The report also indicates the techniques used in the CIA program were “far more brutal” than was relayed to lawmakers and the public.
“It shows that the CIA's actions a decade ago are a stain on our value and on our history," Sen. Dianne Feinstein, chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said on the Senate floor. "The release of this 500 page summary cannot remove that stain but it can and does say to our people and the world that America is big enough to admit when it's wrong and confident enough to learn from its mistakes. Releasing this report is an important step to restore our values and show the world that we are in fact a just and lawful society.”
The report examines 20 specific cases, in which the CIA claimed some type of success in retrieval of information from the interrogation procedures, but the report says those examples were found to be wrong.
Detainee Treatment 'Far More Brutal' Than Previously Thought
The report also says the management of the interrogation program was flawed, pointing to an example from November 2002 when a detainee who had been held partially nude and chained to a concrete floor and wall died from suspected hypothermia. A junior CIA officer was in charge of this facility, which is identified with the pseudonym COBALT. According to the report, senior leadership at the CIA had no knowledge of operations at COBALT.
The report also details techniques that were allegedly “far more brutal” than previously revealed. The report highlights one interrogation session with the CIA’s first detainee, Abu Zabaydah, in which he became “completely unresponsive with bubbles rising through his open full mouth.” Additionally, at least five detainees were subjected to “rectal feeding” or “rectal hydration.”
Obama: 'Significant Damage To America'
President Obama said the techniques detailed in the report "did significant damage to America's standing in the world."
"The report documents a troubling program involving enhanced interrogation techniques on terrorism suspects in secret facilities outside the United States, and it reinforces my long-held view that these harsh methods were not only inconsistent with our values as nation, they did not serve our broader counterterrorism efforts or our national security interests," Obama said. "Moreover, these techniques did significant damage to America’s standing in the world and made it harder to pursue our interests with allies and partners. That is why I will continue to use my authority as President to make sure we never resort to those methods again."
GOP Opposes Report's Release
Along with the majority report led by Feinstein, some Republicans on the committee released a minority report opposing the release of the study.
"The study essentially refuses to admit that CIA detainees, especially CIA detainees subjected to enhanced interrogation techniques, provided intelligence information which helped the United States government and its allies to neutralize numerous terrorist threats," Sen. Saxby Chambliss, vice chairman of the committee, said on the Senate floor. "On its face, this refusal doesn't make sense given the vast amount of information gained from these interrogations, the thousands of intelligence reports that were generated as a result of them, the capture of additional terrorists and the disruption of the plots those captured terrorists were planning. Instead of acknowledging these realities, the study adopts an analytical approach designed to obscure the value of the intelligence obtained from the program."
The minority report, which was endorsed by Sens. Chambliss, Richard Burr, R-N.C., Dan Coats, R-Ind., Jim Risch, R-Idaho, Marco Rubio, R-Fla., and Tom Coburn, R-Okla., argued the majority report used a "flawed methodology," which failed to interview key witnesses, did not allow fact checking or review, and did not discuss the CIA's "very real fear" that another attack could occur in 2002 and 2003.
Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, who is on the committee but did not sign onto the minority report, supported releasing the report but did not agree with all of its findings.
"The report raises serious concerns about the CIA’s management of this detention and interrogation program and the treatment of certain detainees," Collins said in a statement. "Torture is wrong and fundamentally contrary to American values. The report should be made public to allow the American people to reach their own conclusions and to make sure lessons are learned from the mistakes made so that they never happen again.”
Sen. John McCain, who does not serve in the Senate Intelligence Committee, was another Republican to support the majority report, even citing his own torture as a prisoner of war in North Vietnam in his defense of the report.
"I know from personal experience that the abuse of prisoners will produce more bad than good intelligence. I know that victims of torture will offer intentionally misleading information if they think their captors will believe it. I know they will say whatever they think their torturers want them to say if they believe it will stop their suffering,” McCain said. “Most of all, I know the use of torture compromises that which most distinguishes us from our enemies, our belief that all people, even captured enemies, possess basic human rights, which are protected by international conventions the U.S. not only joined, but for the most part authored."
In a response to today's report, several former CIA directors argue that the CIA interrogation program “saved thousands of lives” by helping lead to the capture of top al Qaeda operatives and disrupting their plotting.
"A powerful example of the interrogation program’s importance is the information obtained from Abu Zubaydah, a senior al Qaeda operative, and from Khalid Sheik Muhammed, known as KSM, the 9/11 mastermind,” the former directors wrote in a Wall Street Journal Op-Ed. "We are convinced that both would not have talked absent the interrogation program.”
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